Workin’ Girl

It’s my first day working in an office in over 15 years! The adjustment and commute will be steep but my family will be feeling the pains the most. While Jamie has primarily taken care of finances and yardwork while working ridiculous hours at his company, I kept the house running with food, cleaning and chauffeuring. I don’t claim to be Martha Stewart but have done a pretty seamless job keeping things afloat.
But no one will be feeling my absence more than my Fat Kitty. He is my buddy as I work in my office and does not deal well with change. Plus, he’ll be left alone with Jamie all day and those two mix about as well as oil, water and whole lot of dysfunction.
I bought an Instant Pot which will hopefully help out with quick dinner prep but we need to set forth a plan and more defined chores. The kids and Jamie will now take more responsibilities for for dinners, laundry and dishes while Jamie helps drive kids around.  Admittedly, I’m the most worried about the kitchen because I’m a Nazi about having dishes in the sink and my husband and children have a mental block about loading the dishwasher.
I had hardworking parents. My dad had a stable 9-5 job at Chevron Canada and my mom was always busy with odd jobs like a grocery store food demonstrator. She even had a weekly classified newspaper route and I’d join her as we drove all around the city in our little Mini. I’d often sit on huge stacks of newspapers and delighted whenever a convenience store would give me a treat. Mom was always sewing and crafting, selling her amazing creations around the city. She opened her tea room and gift shop when I was in junior high. I can’t remember feeling like things were falling through the cracks in her absence because it became a family business and I started waitressing when I was just 12 years old.
My Aunt Sue sent me some fun memories growing up with her working mother:
Teach your kids to cook so supper is ready when you get home.  Your mom was cooking for us at age 15 and for the widower down the street, Mister Allen, and his son, Bobby. My mom went back to teaching in Stirling when I was in grade one so Chris [my mom] would have been 14. Dad came in from the farm at noon and got some lunch for me and Miriam while Chris started helping with suppers. Dad did all the laundry. We had a ringer washer in the basement and he read western novels while the clothes washed and then he would ring them out and hang them up. Thanks to our progressive mother, we had a very progressive father :)
The kids CAN keep their rooms up and help out a lot. We weren’t allowed out of the house on Saturdays until our rooms were clean, beds changed, the floors mopped and the ironing done. Old fashioned but we all learned to be good workers.
You have been seeking the path and now you are on the yellow brick road. It’s it amazing how our paths come up to meet us.

Here’s to a new yellow brick road that will hopefully be shiny and clean!

A new adventure and the courage to try

We left our beloved Colorado in August 2016 and moved into our Midway home two months later. I haven’t kept my frustrations a secret over my lack of direction. I’ve wanted to just delve into this new life, leaving behind the old but I’ve been forced to straddle both. Though I’m grateful for my continued work in Denver, I have hated having the opportunities I’m missing thrown in my face.

I’ve strongly felt I needed to go a different direction but every time I thought I had the answer, I was reeled back in with the implicit instructions “Be patient. Just wait. Just trust.” For an impatient self-starter this has, at times, felt like agony.

Early-fall, I started looking for jobs at my alma mater, BYU, located about 40 minutes away up Provo Canyon. Though my best-case scenario is to work from home forever, I’ve grown tired of the roller-coaster freelance world, need stability and am not prepared to waste my time with the Heber Valley’s $12/hour wages. BYU has a cap on full-time employees so their way around it is offer 3/4 time positions without health benefits but with some other perks like solid pay, 401K, and a reduced number of applicants because most at this level are seeking full-time.

In October, I felt certain I was going to a receive an offer for that position and when it didn’t come through, I was stunned. There was another job that had been posted around the same time but I had not applied because it wasn’t as a seamless fit and had a lot more responsibility associated with it. I interviewed twice for that position but never heard back, a relief because I really didn’t want it.

And then I saw another posting, THE posting, and applied for it. The pay was less than the other two but the responsibilities were more in line with my talents and passions. I interviewed a few days before Christmas but at the last minute, I hesitated to even go and told Jamie I wasn’t sure I could work for this particular department. Patient man that he is, he said, “JUST GO AND SEE.”

I had just interviewed in some of the most architecturally cutting-edge properties on campus so when I walked into the building with it’s 1970s tile and maze of scaffolding (they’re raising the ceilings), I balked a bit. But from the moment I walked into the office, I felt right at home. The interview with the assistant dean and executive secretary was seamless and we immediately clicked–it felt more like a conversation. Near the end of it, they said they wanted to move quickly and that they did. Within a few hours of coming home, the HR department had sent me a background check form, the next day I received an “emotional intelligence” test (which I somehow passed) and they spent the holidays checking my references.

Last week, I received the offer. With it comes excitement and mourning. It’s a fairly flexible 3/4-time position but when added with everything else on my plate (Mile High Mamas + a campaign with Park City this winter), how am I going to juggle it all? Working from home for the past 12 years has been a gift as I’ve been 100% available for my family. But now my endless summer days of play with them will be limited and it feels like the end of a wonderful era. But I also crave the stability. I’m ready to help dig ourselves out of the financial headaches of this move with so many daunting expenses that include another car, yard and finishing the basement.

My friend Kelly had posted the following on Facebook the previous week and it had really resonated with me. “Affirmation to try: I have the faith to let go of the outcome.”

How difficult is this? One of our frustration wtih Hadley right now is she gets so overwhelmed with everything that she just shuts down…she doesn’t even have the courage to try because of the fear of how it will turn out. But what if we made a new paradigm in our lives that does not define failure as not achieving our goal but instead, failure as not even attempting to try.

In my office, I had a quote from Jane Pauley before she launched her short-lived talk show on the same week that Oprah infamously gave everyone in her audience a car. She said, “Going up against Oprah I warned my kids that this was a long shot, but that I defined success as having the courage to try.”

Here’s for a year of courage and the wild ride ahead!

A win

I’m not going to lie. Middle school has been rough on Hadley and subsequently the rest of us.

Before we moved here, this girl used to lock herself in her room for hours drawing, painting, creating and dreaming. I’ve encouraged her to start up again and she reluctantly took art this year. Her teacher submitted some of her creations in an art show and she took first place in her class and another drawing (not pictured) took first place in the entire school.

She didn’t tell us about any of it (I found out from her friend) and this is when I confirm that 13 is THE WORST AGE EVER for recognizing your God-given talents and just how incredible you really are.

Hostages

See this guy? 

He’s going through a late-in-life crisis. We’ve been traveling the last few weekends. First, to Salt Lake City for Christmas, then to Zion for New Year’s and then again last weekend for Jamie’s grandpa’s funeral. Compound that with the fact I’ve been gone a lot lately–and it’s about to get worse–and this guy is needy, needy, needy. We try to give him as much attention as we can when we’re around but his anxieties are manifesting themselves early in the morning.

Apparently we’ve made a bad choice in feeding him kitty treats after we wake up because he’s become downright obsessed with them, so much so that he desperately needs them at 4 a.m. And 4:30 a.m. And sometimes at 5 a.m. I normally love having him sleep at my feet but these early mornings are killing Jamie and me, especially because he hasn’t been sleeping well anyway (sometimes he doesn’t fall asleep until 1 or 3 a.m.) So, we started locking Fat Kitty out of our room and while he’s happy to go to sleep with Bode, he has made it clear we are his No. 1 choice. The other morning, he stood outside of our door meowing. I tried to shush him away but he kept right on going. In a desperate attempt to get him to shut up and not wake everyone else, I got up but didn’t give into him by rewarding him with kitty treats until much later. If it works for kids, it works for cats, right?

Nope. Fat Dude has a food quota to reach every day and he doesn’t go down easily. So, last night we made a new plan: to let him “meow it out.” The problem with that is it wakes us up but unlike when we let our kids cry it out, we aren’t worried about something being actually wrong.

Last night was night one of Operation Meow It Out and we cranked our humidifier to high so we wouldn’t hear him. I had to go to the bathroom at one point in the night but told myself, “Don’t do it. HE’LL KNOW YOU’RE AWAKE AND WILL START MEOWING.” At 4 a.m., he came calling but I only heard him meow once…likely because I was in my own stupor from lack of sleep. I went on to feverishly dream about him but was wracking my brain about the word he used to express his displeasure.

When I woke up, I remembered that word loud and clear: “MEOW.”

Heaven help us all. We’re being held hostage by a fat cat.

Lessons Learned in 2018

We’re only a week into 2018 and already, the future is much brighter and more challenging than ever! In addition to starting a new job next week, here are a few lessons learned in 2018:

1) Grandpa Smith. We found out on New Year’s Eve that Jamie’s 90-year-old Grandpa Smith passed away. He has been steadily declining for some time now and when you’re so advanced in age, death becomes a celebration of life, not a time of mourning. I’ll write a separate post about some of the sweet moments from the funeral but he truly was such a man of honor with a tremendous legacy.

2) President Monson. A few days later, our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, passed away. He was also 90 years old and there have been so many remarkable tributes flooding the news and my social media channels. His entire ministry was dedicated to the motto “To the Rescue,” a lesson he learned early-on:

 More than half a century before he became the 16th president of the LDS Church, Thomas S. Monson, who died at 10:01 p.m. Tuesday in his Salt Lake City home at age 90, was an inexperienced, 23-year-old Mormon bishop with a distressing problem that would define his life.

He had the distinct spiritual prompting to leave a priesthood leadership meeting as his stake president was speaking and visit an elderly member of his congregation in the hospital. It seemed rude to stand, shuffle over 20 people and exit as his presiding leader spoke. Instead, he sat uncomfortably until the talk ended, then bolted for the door before the closing prayer.

At the hospital, he ran down the corridor. He stopped when he saw commotion outside the room of the man he was to visit. A nurse told him the man had died, calling Bishop Monson’s name as he passed away. Shattered, the fledgling bishop went outside and wept, sobbing. He vowed then, in the parking lot of the old Veterans Hospital in Salt Lake City’s Avenues, that he would never turn a deaf ear to another prompting.

“It’s the most impressive story I know from him about his ministry to the one,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “As far as I know he kept that promise ever since. It became fundamentally characteristic of his life and what sets him apart from others, that he committed to this idea of following a prompting, and the focus almost always was a single person.” -Deseret News

3) Porter. Our season passes for Park City Mountain have black-out dates during busy times that included Christmas. The first chance we got to hit the slopes also happened to be the last day of winter break so we invited our good friends to join us. Their two children, Porter and Kallie, are around my kids’ same ages and ability levels so it’s a great fit!

We were about 1.5 hours into our ski day racing down Kokopelli when I noticed a child had crashed in a sign. I quickly slowed down and was horrified to realize it was Porter and he was badly injured. He’s a tough kid and an incredible athlete so I knew if he was crying, it had to be serious. His mom Julie and I quickly went into action. I called 911 while she embraced Porter and whispered a prayer in his ear. He immediately calmed down and Park City’s Ski Patrol was there in minutes to administer to him and take him down the mountain in the toboggan. He was raced to Primary Children’s Hospital and they were relieved his femur wasn’t broken and he had a deep muscle contusion diagnosis, which means 1-2 months of healing but no surgery.

During all the chaos following the crash, my kids and I patiently stood by for a long time, unable to do much besides calm Kallie down and steer skiers away. Julie tried to send us home but I refused in case she needed additional help. Later that night, she texted me:

Thank you for saying ‘I am not leaving you.’ That was just what I needed.

My response to her was:

And thank you for making it a sacred moment by fervently praying over your boy and so beautifully showing us how we should all react to hard things.

One crash, two very important life lessons learned.

 

Alta Ski Area to the Max

Do you remember last year when we were maximum interlodged (a.k.a. snowed in) at Alta Ski Area due to avalanche danger? That article is live today!

We are holed away at Alta Ski Area in Utah as the wind and snow howl, the only visibility the distant light of the snowcats grooming the 36 inches of snow from the latest storm…and more is expected the next day. The kids are nervous; they’ve never skied conditions like this. When we arrived, tales were flying from real-life storm chasers of epic powder and the previous day’s “interlodge” where people were required by law to stay indoors as avalanche crews blasted the hanging faces of Little Cottonwood Canyon. One thing is for sure: these kiddos will never forget their first time attempting Alta’s legendary powder.

Many years ago, I worked as the publicist for Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort but here’s my secret: I always preferred skiing its next door neighbor, Alta. Located 45 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport, Alta is literally a mountain with a skier’s soul and is one of the fewest remaining resorts that bans snowboarders. It’s also one of the oldest ski areas in the country, opening its first lift in 1939 and continuing to evolve while staying true to its roots: deep, unadulterated snow without the fancy bells and whistles. Alta is for purists who don’t care about 5-star accommodations and the nightlife; its magic happens during the day. CLICK TO KEEP READING

 

Welcome to 2018!

Admittedly, last year wasn’t a favorite and I’ve decided to be kinder with myself about it all. We uprooted our wonderful Colorado lives. Raising struggling teenagers is hard. Navigating injuries can be depressing. Health problems put what really matters into perspective. Trying to find purpose in this strange, new world takes time. There is always hope.

I’m just ready for 2017 to be behind us and I already have several appointments and courses in place to ensure we get back on track in 2018. It’s tough to feel like a horse in the starting blocks, and being repeatedly told be wait. Have patience. And the time to race is not yet at hand. But I feel like things are slowly coming together and this will be the year I start to have some perspective as to why we’re here.

At our tithing settlement, our Bishop challenged us to make 2018 the best year yet. I’ll admit I initially balked at his suggestion. We’re still very much in limbo and our glorious Colorado lives of endless travels and children unfettered by the world’s challenges are over. We’ve left our Garden of Eden and it has, at times, felt like Utah is our lone and dreary world. But then I look back on our journey about how far we’ve come. We’re making friends and formulating real relationships. I am getting offered solid freelance opportunities without even seeking them out. Jamie’s business continues to grow. We live in a beautiful place that feels like it was hand-picked for us. We have his beloved family nearby. Life is good despite all of its messiness.

I’ve recently had a renewed appreciation for the 12 years of my kids’ lives in Colorado. When you’re in the murky middle of it, you rarely see the successes, only the struggles. How grateful I am I was able to stay at home with them; I never missed a class party, a recital or a volunteer opportunity. Building a business on my own terms that centered around them gave us freedoms and opportunities to explore our world that most never have. We hiked and skied  hundreds of miles together, discovered Colorado’s greatest haunts and we instilled within them a love of adventure and happiness.

Then came Utah. I’m more determined than ever to ensure that Colorado was not the best chapter in our lives. My friend Lisa posted this quote and I love it.

Tip of the day: When you look back on 2017, don’t think of it as a year of pain but a year of growth. You made it through each day. You should be proud of yourself. You are a better you, despite all the hardships. Take a deep breath and enter 2018 with hope and confidence.

I’ve always barreled forward with everything in my life and fear hasn’t ever held me back. If I wanted something, I went after it and if I didn’t get it, something even better came along. That’s the beauty of optimism. No looking back, no regrets. But this move required a lot of great sacrifices that were at the core of my very being and figuring out a new sense of self has rocked that core. So, my word for 2018 is courage as I figure out a new path and accept that the old one is gone forever.

Let’s do this thing.

Christmas 2017: It’s a Wrap!

Christmas 2017 is a wrap! Jamie’s family has some lovely traditions and they are kind enough to let me integrate a few of my own.

Saturday

With Christmas on a Monday, our schedule was thrown a bit of a wrench because many of our activities fell on Saturday. It didn’t make much sense to drive back and forth from Salt Lake City (about an hour away) so when we saw snow was in the forecast, we stayed Saturday and Sunday night at Linda’s.  Jamie’s brother Chris drove out from Denver so the whole clan was here, which made for a tight squeeze at Grandma Linda’s Inn but was still fun.

The brunch at Grand America was our first stop. Linda is kind enough to treat the whole family and I love this tradition in one of Utah’s fanciest hotels. The selection isn’t nearly as extensive as The Broadmoor (which has ruined us for life) but the food is still delicious. They took way too many reservations so there was a long wait for the food–a line that wrapped all the way around the dining room–which is really pathetic at a buffet.  But trust my good husband to issue a complaint and get four of the meals comped because we’re those people.

Side note: Pay particular attention to Bode’s expressions. He’s a real joy with pictures right now. :-)

We took family pictures in the courtyard in the snow, Chris chucked a snowball at Jamie (can’t wait to see that photo) and we dispersed back to the hotel to check-out the life-sized gingerbread house and candy windows. From there, it was off to see “The Last Jedi,” which got two thumbs up from us all! The rest of the day/night was pizza gorging and hanging out at Grandma’s.

Sunday

The whole family attended church at Grandma’s ward and it was one of my most memorable Christmas Sundays ever! They combined with the Spanish-speaking congregation and having the service entirely bilingual was so touching. We were surrounded by Spanish-speaking families and I got choked up to hear them sing…and then we joined them to attempt “Silent Night” in Spanish. There were several times during the service when the speakers and singers were moved to tears and it was just so memorable to be reminded that we are all part of this big, beautiful world bonded together by our Savior, regardless of what language we speak.


Jamie’s sister, Tammy, threw a wonderful Christmas Eve party complete with my family’s pipe bells, the gift exchange game where Linda was the grand prize winner of my white elephant gift: a beautifully framed picture of The Pumpkin Man. Tammy is an amazing cook and we had smoked pork tacos and figgy pudding for dessert, and watched A Christmas Carol and the story of the Nativity.

The bells!

On the drive back to Grandma’s, we stopped at Temple Square to the see the lights. Zero crowds + the Salt Lake Temple appearing like an apparition in the flurry of snow and lights = a peacefulness that breathed the very spirit of that holy day.

Monday

Christmas!!! My loving(?!) husband excitedly woke everyone up at 7:15 a.m., which I suppose isn’t nearly as bad as my brother Pat’s family who always wake up around 4 a.m. (proof of “Crazy Canucks” is in the puddin’). I made breakfast bake with Hollandaise sauce and our famous Ebelskivers for a yummy Christmas breakfast…and the wait wasn’t nearly as long as the Grand America.

Growing up, our family’s tradition was a bit of a free-for-all with paper and presents flying everywhere. Jamie’s family is much more civilized and they elect a Santa who hands out presents and everyone takes turns opening them for all to see. It’s a bit tedious for kids (like me) who just want to get on with it but it makes the moment last longer.

A few gift highlights:

Jamie: We seem to always forgo presents to each other and pool our financial resources into other presents for the kids and family. His big gift for his birthday a couple of weeks ago was a new suit, which he proudly modeled as his “birthday suit.” His mom bought propane tanks for his new greenhouse and that will be part of my dad’s gift as well (we’re sure fun people). Jamie also bought a few Echo Dots to smart-wire our house.   He claims “Alexa” is the only woman in the house who actually listens to him and does what he says. 

Bode: Aunt Lisa and Grandma bought him a Kindle Fire and my dad sent some money to buy our own gifts so we loaded a lot of books and games onto his Kindle Fire.  Jamie also bought him a drone, only to find out (too late) it doesn’t have a video camera. We figure we’ll do an upgrade once he figures how to fly it without crashing! He loves games of all kinds so scored several classic board games like Mastermind and Rummikub.

Hadley: We’re trying to finish decorating her room so she got some lights and clips to hang pictures and we’re still searching for the perfect portrait for above her bed.  She got a tripod for her camera, Grandma Johnson bought her a lot of clothes, while Grandpa Borowski got her VANS and volleyball shoes. She was excited to get Alexa in her room because she can finally listen to music (we don’t allow phones/computers in the bedrooms); however, we have more sinister plans like wake-up calls and turning on the lights to get that teen out of bed. She had her phone taken away the week leading up to Christmas so she said her favorite gift was getting it back on Christmas. Note to self: Don’t waste money on presents next year; just regift items they already have.

Me: Now that we live next to The Best Pathway in the World (the Provo River Parkway), I bought some new roller-blades from my dad. My blades are 20+ years old and my sole outing last summer on my decrepit blades was rather disastrous. Jamie surprised me with some gorgeous new KEEN hiking shoes and I got some cookbooks and kitchen items as well.

Jamie’s parents received a financial settlement from a lawsuit so generously gave each of their children some money, as well as put some in each grandchild’s college tuition account. My first thought upon receiving their gift was to make a smart investment but Jamie’s plan made more sense: to pay down some debt. We’re still climbing out of all financial messes of our move…and the car troubles from last summer.  We’re almost out of debt and vowed to be completely debt-free before taking more on with getting another car, landscaping the backyard and finishing the basement. We had a good chuckle when we realized my Pilot is as old as our marriage–a 2003! It’s no wonder it’s falling apart.

Our 2017 had a lot of highs and lows as our first full year in Utah but I’m hopeful that this slow rebuilding process will start to have some dividends in 2018. Here’s to a great one!

Lost and Found

I came to know Jon Schmidt from the popular musical group, The Piano Guys, many years ago when he was in the Bishopric of my single’s ward. He was a struggling musician with a large family and was a kind, humble man (and I’m so happy he has remained that way even in fame).

Last year, there was a story in the media that deeply touched me when his daughter, Annie, went missing during a hike in Oregon. There was an extensive search and her body was eventually found. The mainstream media reported the basics of the search and rescue but I felt like there was more to the story so I continued digging into it even after the case wrapped and I found an article in the Standard-Examiner about her miraculous recovery.

I’ll include that story below but I was reminded of it when I saw a beautiful video The Piano Guys recently posted. The holidays are about joy but for so many who have lost loved ones or who are dealing with loneliness, it’s a sorrowful time. This music speaks to having peace.

Finding Annie Schmidt: One woman’s calling to find Piano Guys lost daughter

By Mark Saal

Millions of people followed the heartbreaking story of Annie Schmidt, the 21-year-old who disappeared last month in the rugged mountains of the Columbia River Gorge. But for one Oregon woman, finding Annie Schmidt became something of a calling.

Schmidt, daughter of a member of the Utah-based musical group The Piano Guys, was last seen Oct. 16, when she went hiking in the gorge. Her vehicle was found near the trailheads to several backcountry hikes.

Lydia McGranahan, 40, lives in the small town of Keizer, Ore., just north of Salem. Like so many others, McGranahan saw the news of a missing hiker.

“It happens to be about an hour and a half from where I live,” McGranahan said by telephone Thursday. “I’m an avid hiker and know the area quite well.”

She decided to help look for Annie.

On Oct. 23, McGranahan joined the massive volunteer effort to search for Schmidt. But when the group finished for the day around noon, McGranahan wasn’t ready to leave.

This pair of undated photos was released by the Portland, Ore., Police Bureau during the search for the young woman.This pair of undated photos was released by the Portland, Ore., Police Bureau during the search for the young woman.

“I didn’t want to go home, it wasn’t dark yet,” she said. “So I thought, ‘I’m going to stand where Annie’s car was, and try to think like her.’ ”

There are any number of trails — covering quite a bit of ground — in the area, so McGranahan just began hiking, all the while trying to imagine where Annie might have gone.

“I started walking down one trail, and then onto another trail,” she said.

McGranahan ended at Munra Point, which OregonHikers.org describes as “an exposed basalt knob at the junction of three spiny ridges … (offering) a spectacular and exposed 360-degree view up and down the Columbia River Gorge.” The website describes it as a “non-maintained trail,” with steep scrambles, and is “safest in dry weather.” It had rained the morning Schmidt had gone hiking.

When McGranahan got to Munra Point, she says, “It seemed like the place Annie would want to go; I felt like we should search there.”

That night, McGranahan had an intense dream. She felt herself falling, and as she fell, she saw Schmidt’s face — as if she were somehow inside her.

“I felt strongly, when I woke up from that, that Annie had fallen,” McGranahan says. “And that she was at Munra Point.”

McGranahan would spend seven days, daylight to dark, helping search for Schmidt.

On Oct. 26, McGranahan’s 40th birthday, she again joined the search. She’d originally planned on going to McKenzie River and hiking 40 miles on her 40th birthday.

“That’s what I set out to do, but then the night before, I found out the family was spending one more day searching for Annie,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I can’t do my own thing, not as long as she is missing.’ ”

That day, at the staging area, McGranahan told the search team about her dream and shared a few other clues that led her to believe Schmidt was near Munra Point. But the group had already searched that area, and had made plans for searching elsewhere. McGranahan decided to be a team player and go along with the group.

But midway through that search, one of the men in the group confided to McGranahan: “She’s not here,” he said.

So he, McGranahan and one other man decided to leave the group and search at Munra Point. They scoured potential areas where Schmidt could have fallen, even rappelling off a cliff edge that turned out to be not far from where Schmidt was found.

“After that, I felt such a strong pull,” McGranahan admits. “I’d come home, I couldn’t sleep. People were posting ‘It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,’ and I’m, like, ‘No it’s not.’ It’s not. I had this serious drive and intuition to find her.”

At one point, McGranahan’s 12-year-old daughter emerged from Sunday services at the nondenominational Christian church they attend with a premonition. “She came out to the car and said, ‘Mom, we were singing a song, and I felt like God was talking to me. He told me you’re going to find Annie.’ … I’d prepared myself that I would be the one to find her.”

On the day before McGranahan found Annie, the Schmidt family brought in eight search and rescue dog teams, led by Eden resident Joe Jennings, president of Great Basin K9 Search & Rescue. The plan was to search several high-probability areas, but when McGranahan was assigned to help in an area away from Munra Point, she asked to be reassigned.

“They’d asked me to go to a different place and I was, like, ‘No, I want to go to Munra.’ ” McGranahan recalls.

So she was teamed with Jennings and his golden retriever, Gunny, to search the area below the point.

“There was one large area I felt strongly about, knowing Annie liked to take shortcuts,” she said. “Joe was assigned that part, so I led him up there.”

The going was slow — steep, thick vegetation, a lot of bushwhacking — difficult terrain to walk on once you get off-trail. Then, it happened.

“Joe’s dog popped up his head,” McGranahan said. “I saw it immediately in Gunny — the attitude, nose up, whole body changed, faced uphill. I knew we were onto something.”

Gunny, a 9-year-old golden retriever, barks to alert searchers he's picked up a scent in this Nov. 10 photo. He and his owner, Joe Jennings, of Eden, were instrumental in finding the remains of Annie Schmidt, the Oregon hiker who went missing in mid-October.Gunny, a 9-year-old golden retriever, barks to alert searchers he’s picked up a scent in this Nov. 10 photo. He and his owner, Joe Jennings, of Eden, were instrumental in finding the remains of Annie Schmidt, the Oregon hiker who went missing in mid-October.

They worked their way up under the cliff, then Gunny seemed to lose the scent.

“The wind was swirling; Joe said Gunny was trying to figure it out,” McGranahan said.

Eventually, unable to pinpoint the scent, the team needed to head back down to the trailhead.

“Joe’s dog sat at the cliff edge, head up, barking,” McGranahan recalls. “Gunny was frustrated. He did not want to go — he knew Annie was close.”

McGranahan led a second team up that afternoon, but again, they were unsuccessful.

The next morning, McGranahan headed back to the same area with a fresh search team — Wyoming-based Liz Hall and her dog, Reu.

Reu led Hall and McGranahan to a spot not far from where Gunny had taken them. It was there they found Schmidt’s remains and belongings.

Annie Schmidt was found.

Officials determined the death to be accidental; they believe she slipped and fell from the cliffs above and died on impact.

McGranahan feels fortunate she was able to help with Schmidt’s recovery — and marvels they were able to find her so quickly with the dogs.

“Fall was happening,” McGranahan said. “When Annie went missing, the leaves were still on the trees. By the time we found her, all the leaves were off the trees. The trails, the evidence on the ground, even some of Annie’s stuff — they were covered with leaves.”

This highlights the need for trained search dogs like Gunny and Reu, according to Jennings.

“A lot of the human searchers didn’t — or couldn’t — get off the trails, he said. “In that terrain, you could walk a few feet from her and never know she was there.”

Jennings said when they abandoned the search the day before Schmidt was found, they’d assumed she’d landed on one of the many ledges and overhangs on the cliffs above.

“If we’d just gone around the corner, we would have run into her,” he said.

McGranahan has had a difficult time dealing with the memories of finding Annie Schmidt’s remains — although she knows that, with time, things will get better. And she’s been invited to Monday’s funeral, and to stay with the family of one of the two other searchers she worked with on her birthday.

McGranahan has been so affected by the experience that she wants to pursue search and rescue, eventually getting a dog to train.

“I’ve been astounded at how so many people have come together in this search, in so many different ways, and how everybody’s part was valuable,” she said. “I’d come back from a day of searching — exhausted, discouraged that we hadn’t found her — and see on Facebook that hundreds and hundreds of people were encouraging you, praying for you.

“To me, when people are still praying, I cannot stop searching.”

Christmastime in the City errr…Town

It’s such a busy time of year for so many but strangely, this has been my least stressful Christmas in a while.  I finished my shopping and wrapping a few weeks ago, which has allowed me freedom from the holiday frenzy. I’ve helped my friend Kelly with her move and was also able to pick-up a last-minute freelance writing assignment.  The kids and I met Jamie’s family for Christkindlmarkt in Salt Lake City and this traditional German Christmas Market made me miss my time in Switzerland.

We enjoyed Midway’s Christmas tree lighting and candlelight walk and the Midway Town Party a couple of weeks later where the kids emerged with huge bags of candy, even though they were on the naughty list after jumping over the barrier before the program was over so they could be among the first in line with Santa.

(Bode with the Seversons; Hadley is too cool to visit Santa)

I did a huge baking session last weekend after skiing (8+ hours of all our favorites: caramel toffee squares, almond rocha, white chocolate snowball cookies, cream cheese cutout cookies and sugar-and-spice cookies). We made up about 30 treat plates and had so much fun delivering them on Sunday. Some memorable moments: Bode subtly pinching me whenever I tried to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to the recipients. Andrea turning on her blinding porch light and my over-the-top response, “The light, it burns!” A certain someone who warned, “Watch the extension cord” as we talked up to the house, only to have another certain someone trip on it at that exact moment. It was a fun night with a lot of laughter and I’m grateful for this family of mine.

I’ve wanted to sponsor a family’s Christmas for ages but money always seems to be especially tight around the holidays so we went to our local “Angel Tree” to purchase some gifts to local kids in need. It was pretty sobering to see their wish lists; for too many, it was basic things like socks and underwear. We ended up buying some cars and trucks for a 5-year-old boy and then some art supplies for a 13-year-old teen with autism. It wasn’t much but it felt good to at least do something.

Everyone is gathering in Calgary for Christmas except me and I’ve been really homesick. We’re now only a 13-hour drive home but only have one functioning car that can’t make the winter drive. Airline tickets are too expensive so we’re staying in Utah. My mom’s health continues to deteriorate…I haven’t really talked to her in a year and it has reached the point where my dad can no longer care for her at home so changes will need to be made.  When you have suffered for 30 years with an unrelenting disease, grief comes in waves. The other night, I was missing her so badly and did something I haven’t really done since we moved here: I played the piano. It was late and as my fingers flew over the keys, I felt reconnected to a former life where music brought comfort and I deeply regretted I have let that go…and vowed to do better.

Things are slowly starting to click for everyone. We still miss our deep Colorado connections and I am trying to be OK that maybe we’ll never have a friend group like that again. I didn’t do a Christmas card or newsletter this year so here’s where we’re ending 2017:

Bode, 6th grade. Enjoying middle school, playing the flute and piano and made the Honor Roll. Has a handful of good friends, takes a free coding class at the library with them every week and will soon start X-country skiing at Soldier Hollow. Still gloriously drama-free.

Hadley, 8th grade. Enjoys torturing her parents by refusing to turn in her assignments until right before end-of-term when she is miraculously able to pull out acceptable grades. Made the club volleyball team, has a growing interest in photography and is enjoying weekly Young Women activities at church.

Jamie. Grew his second and third biggest pumpkins ever and is figuring out a way to get the federal government to help fund his obsession (I wish I was kidding). Health (rheumatism) isn’t great but he continues to work [too] hard and grow his business.

Amber. Mile High Mamas is still doing well and I hope to make some changes and/or sell it next year. I have had some freelance work in Utah (including a big campaign for Park City this winter) and a few job interviews at BYU. Not nearly enough outdoor playtime and hiking. Must. Do. Better.

I feel hopeful for 2018, something I haven’t felt for a couple of years with all the uncertainty of our move. I’m not sure what lessons I’ve learned in 2017. It’s been a year of rebuilding and trying to have patience with my life in limbo. But my hope for 2018 is to have courage and clarity as to why we’re here and where we should be going.

XO